Author Archives: Darrell Goodliffe

Opinion: Time for a U-turn on Lisbon Treaty

Let’s call a spade a spade: given the BNP electoral successes I think this is probably one of the most important things we can do in politics right now. Last night was not a good set of results for the Lib Dems; anything that places our national vote share behind Labour’s simply is not good enough.

Rather than do an exhaustive analysis I intend to do something novel, something that has not been done much during this electoral cycle, and focus on a European issue.

I remember one of the first blog posts that I wrote critical of a position …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 31 Comments

Opinion: Israel – time for action

ConservativeHome.com carries a couple of articles on the recent excesses of the Israeli military. Alex Deane loses himself in his eulogy to the State of Israel: surrounded by “enemies who wish her ill”, this “sliver of democracy and decency has always held my sympathy,” he informs the reader.

However, pick up a Sunday newspaper, and you can see that Israeli policy is pretty far from decency. If even the likes of Deane are feeling that supporting Israel is now “less straightforward”, then serious questions have to be asked about how long the guilt-induced whitewashing of Israel’s actions can last.

Signs were emerging yesterday of a new consensus, with all three parties criticising Israel’s recent air raids on the Gaza Strip. However, the crux of the question is what will emerge out of this new climate of criticism. Will we see concrete calls for increasing stringent sanction to be applied to Israel while it continues to violate international law with impunity?

Much will depend on the attitude of the incoming US President, Barack Obama. Sadly, there is little hope of a more stringent line emerging from an Obama administration. Visiting Israel last summer he said:

If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that.”

All of which sounds very reasonable but does little to address the complexities of the vast power disparities in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the cause-effect relationship between the actions Israel takes and why Hamas enjoys the support it does amoung the Palestinian population. Put simply, Israel’s problem is that it has been allowed carte blanche for far too long, and that is as damaging to it as it is to the innocents that it rolls over.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 38 Comments

Opinion: Secularise education

At our Spring conference we are going to be debating two highly contentious issues around education policy: tuition fees and how we should approach the question of faith schools.

With the latter in mind it is interesting to look at the recent report published by The Runnymede Trust. Entitled ‘Right to Divide?’. It is a comprehensive report which consulted parents, teachers,education experts, religious leaders, local authority officials and pupils. So, it cannot be easily dismissed as reflecting the experiences or biases of one particular grouping.

Rather than try and cover all 76 pages of the report in this piece I intend to focus on the 6 key recommendations. Let’s start at the top with the headline grabber:

(1) End selection based on faith.

The report rightly justifies this thus:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 69 Comments

Opinion: Restating the case against capital punishment

Whenever a particularly horrific criminal case is in the media spotlight there are inevitably calls for the reintroduction of capital punishment. Either for the ‘specific case in question’ or, more generally, for the specific type of crime committed. It’s to be expected from ‘foaming at the mouth’ right-wingers, but such views are also shared by many members of the general public.

We have seen that this week on Lib Dem Voice and the comments on Baby P. Nobody is under any illusions about the horrific nature of this case and the deplorable nature of the crimes committed. I think …

Posted in Op-eds | 22 Comments

Opinion: Time to end the ‘war on terror’ and bring all our troops home

Nick Clegg, writing in The Independent on Sunday, made many worthy suggestions as to how British foreign policy may now proceed, especially in light of the election of Barack Obama as US President.

He is right to argue that now is the time for a “regional agreement, similar to the Dayton Peace Agreement, involving all countries in the region, especially Iran.” He is right about the centrality of involving both Iran and Pakistan in negotiations and also splitting the Taliban.

However, all the things that make him right about these issues make his call for Britain to support “a …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Opinion: Forging ahead

Something of a debate has been captivating the Liberal Democrat blogosphere recently. I don’t think this is something unique to the Liberal Democrats as a party; each party and movement is going through something of a process of struggle and redefinition due to the new financial climate in which we find ourselves.

Whatever your general view of capitalism as a social system, it is absolutely true in my eyes that the limitations of the markets have been cruelly exposed in the past weeks. Of course, this is not true if you are a die-hard libertarian; what has been exposed for them is the problems with fettering their beloved market. However, the consensus of opinion, even in such ‘loyalist’ tomes like The Economist and Financial Times, weighs heavily against the libertarian view of the correct lessons that should be drawn from the current crisis.

What has been teased out is that there is a need for a new consensus; maybe even A New Start, as posited by David Allen on these very pages. Of course, your view of how we got here will necessarily determine your view of which way forward is right.

However, what is abundantly clear is that the nature of the Liberal Democrats as a political party mitigates against the adoption of anybody’s ‘maximum program’. I would no more want to be a member of a party that abandons concepts such as social justice and the welfare of the people that the state is supposed to serve, as any libertarian would want to be of a party committed to the nationalisation of the ‘commanding heights’, or even more extreme democratisation of capital.

So, middle ground has to be found. How can we go about this?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

Opinion: Smoking and Liberty

Stephen Tall, starting a debate last week on the Lib Dems’ position in the polls, unintentionally started a quite different debate regarding the specific issue of smoking and liberty.

Laying my cards on the table from the start; I am a smoker and have been for over a year although I am in the throes of trying to cut back. Despite this, when it was introduced I just about came out in favour of the ban because I think there was enough evidence that the public health concerns are genuine, and, ultimately, I was prepared to trade a little of my individual liberty in this instance. You can debate the scientific evidence for and against this point ad infinitum, but there is also the issue that smoking smells pretty terrible etc, etc.

In these circumstances I found it possible to support the restriction on my liberty because I was imposing on others. Could you possibly extend that logic to support a ban in all public places? Yes, I guess you possibly could, but this would be a point where a line is crossed because the effects of second-hand smoking were exacerbated by being in a confined space. Ultimately smokers are usually aware of the risks and it is their decision whether to take that risk or not. It is a question of whether people have the right to control and govern what they do with their own bodies. Smoking in a confined space took that right away from other people, but smoking in an open space where air can circulate does not.

The Guardian reported recently that the latest smoking figures show nine million people still smoke – which is a minority but nonetheless a sizeable one. Disproportionately it is people on lower incomes who smoke the most (although income is not a sole determinant):

According to Professor Martin Jarvis, a psychologist at University College London and a leading specialist in the field of smoking and health inequality, this is not a question solely of income: every main indicator of a lower socio-economic status is likely, independent of each of the others, to predict a higher rate of smoking. If your educational level is below the average, you are more likely to smoke. If you live in rented or overcrowded accommodation, you are more likely to smoke. Ditto if you do not have access to a car, are unemployed, or on state income benefit.”

So, people who think higher taxation is the answer should consider this; that you are already hitting people hard who are at the bottom of the pile.

Posted in Op-eds | 95 Comments
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